Amazon Cloud Player Locks User Out Of Music Collection

The Amazon Cloud Player is a delightful new service that allows users to store music they’ve purchased from Amazon (or upload even more music from somewhere else) and listen to it from any Web browser or on a variety of mobile devices. Neat. Bryan thought that he would try it out, but something went wrong, and now his music is trapped in the cloud. Even though he writes that he’s only used the Cloud Player on three different computers, Amazon clams that he’s reached his limit of eight devices and can’t access his files.

This is where a lesser blog would make a “cloud nine” joke.

Bryan writes:

Amazon is holding my content hostage. Seriously. The back-story: I recently became an Amazon Cloud Player subscriber – basically by virtue of a free 5GB account for having purchased music from them which later turned into a 20GB account via a free upgrade for making a qualifying album purchase. Amazon is by far my preferred digital music store so I was pretty excited to give it a shot.

Great deal, right? I thought so, too. Until the other day when I logged into my account to play some tunes and got an error telling me I’ve reached my 8 device limit. Hmmm. Can’t be. I only use 3 computers and one browser so it must be an error. Mind you, once this error message pops up you can’t do anything. It basically locks you out of your cloud account. I was assuming this was an issue with opening multiple instances of the player in my browser, but I wasn’t exactly sure.

I’m pretty forgiving with new technology (especially when that new technology is free) so I sent them an email asking for clarification on the 8 device limit and the albeit slight possibility of my account being hacked and somebody playing my music from another device (hey, who doesn’t love Ray LaMontagne?!). The next day I received an email with this response:

“Thank you for writing to Amazon.com. Your concerns about your content stored on Amazon Cloud Drive are important to us. Specifically, I understand you are concerned about the security of your files on Cloud Drive. Please keep in mind that your personal information is subject to the protections of our Privacy Notice, which can be found at: http://www.amazon.com/privacy

In addition, each file is stored within Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3); the same highly scalable, reliable, fast, data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites.

Please know that Amazon Cloud Player allows access from up to 8 devices. Each time you open a different browser on the same computer, this will count as a new “device.”
You might need the newest version of the Amazon MP3 Downloader to avoid this error.”

Which looks oddly identical to their ‘help’ section here:

Safe and secure storage

Amazon Cloud Drive provides customers with reliable, secure server storage. Each file is stored within Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3); the same highly scalable, reliable, fast, data storage infrastructure that Amazon uses to run its own global network of web sites.

and here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=help_search_T1_1-2?ie=UTF8&nodeId=200656220&qid=1305174514&sr=1-2

Do you have Cloud Player running on multiple devices?

Amazon Cloud Player allows access from up to 8 devices. Each time you open a different browser on the same computer, this will count as a new “device.”You might need the newest version of the Amazon MP3 Downloader.

Gee, thanks, Amazon. I could have (and did) read the FAQ section. Since I didn’t get anything from their email I followed a link they had included indicating that they had not yet resolved my issue. This lead to a 10 min wait on hold after the first CS rep had no idea what I was talking about and had to transfer me to the “mp3 department”. The CS rep in the mp3 department was very apologetic, but offered no immediate resolution instead saying he had to file a request with the development team in order to reset my device list. More troubling was that he told me that it wasn’t guaranteed that they’d even reset my account – meaning I’m locked out permanently.

When I asked what would happen to my content if they refused to reset my device limit he stated, “we’ll cross that bridge if we get there”. Really?! I was very polite but somewhat incredulous during this entire interaction. Since I only have a handful of albums uploaded, all of which I also have stored locally, I really don’t care what happens to be honest, but if I had something of importance saved there, or was a paying customer, I’d be en fuego. I’m supposed to have an answer within 24 hours, but it just amazes me that this is the process. Even Evil iTunes let’s the user deactivate devices if you reach your limit.

Anyway, I primarily just wanted to see if anybody else had run into this issue and to warn the Consumerist world that any data they put up on Amazon’s Cloud Player is subject to a hostage situation.

Well, have you? Bryan’s story serves as an important reminder as cloud-based music grows: don’t trust any one cloud service, or even any one device with the precious digital downloads that you’ve paid for. (Let’s assume that you paid for them.) Always have multiple backups of your precious mp3s, documents, or even cat pictures in order to prevent losing your files forever to device theft, hard drive failure, or even a cloud service hostage situation.